Tag Archives: Victoria

Viva Energy hides true emissions

The following is an email I received from Environment Victoria about the Viva Energy gas terminal proposed for Geelong. In it, Environment Victoria details how Viva Energy ‘neglected’ to include the cost of transport in its emissions proposal:

Hi Andrea, This week Viva Energy released the Environment Effects Statement (EES) for their proposed gas terminal in Geelong, and straight away we noticed something dodgy. 

Viva’s gas terminal would use the same technology as the one AGL proposed in Westernport Bay, and import the same amount of gas, so you’d expect the figures for greenhouse gas pollution to be pretty similar too. 

But they weren’t. Viva Energy estimated their gas terminal would have emissions about NINE TIMES LESS than AGL’s proposal.  

Why? When we combed through the details, we found the answer. Viva Energy has tried to exclude the largest single source of pollution – from transporting the LNG in tankers to Geelong. 

Buried in the appendix of a 13,000 page document, we found the data that gave the real numbers.

When transport emissions are included, the total climate impact of Viva Energy’s gas terminal could be up to 12 TIMES higher – even greater than AGL’s proposal would have been. 

If the gas is shipped from the Middle East, the total emissions would be almost 600,000 tonnes per year. And that’s not even including the pollution when the gas is burned in homes and businesses across Victoria. 

Right in the middle of a climate crisis, as a warmer atmosphere drives more extreme flooding and fires, Viva Energy has tried to bury the true emissions impact of their gas project.

We can’t let them get away with it – please help by sharing this on social media. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Viva’s Environment Effects Statement is part of a planning process that’s supposed to assess all the environmental impacts of the terminal. They should have been totally transparent about ALL the emissions so that the public can weigh up the pros and cons. 

At least AGL was honest enough to include these ‘Scope 3’ transport emissions, but Viva has tried to get off on a technicality, and that’s not good enough. 

Help spread the word about the true climate impact of Viva Energy’s gas terminal by sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

We’re also looking for people with expertise in greenhouse gas accounting, marine ecology, toxic sediments and dredging, safety, and a range of other issues to help scrutinise Viva Energy’s Environment Effects Statement. If this sounds like you, please register your interest here >> 

This is crunch time for Viva Energy’s gas terminal project.

There’s little over a month to have your say – submissions close 11 April. We’ll be in touch about the best way to make a submission later, but in the meantime please share the social media post or volunteer as an expert.

Thanks for helping spread the word, and we hope you can get more involved in the campaign.  Greg Foyster
and the team at Environment Victoria

PS: Our media release exposing Viva Energy’s climate accounting trick is here, and it was covered by Australian Financial Review, ABC 774 Melbourne, Geelong AdvertiserBay FM and K Rock. Facebook Twitter Instagram News wrap Environment Victoria is located on Wurundjeri land and works across many Aboriginal nations. We pay our respects to Aboriginal elders past and present, recognise their continuing contribution to caring for country, and acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded.

Environment Victoria, Level 2, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia. Call us on 03 9341 8100 update your preferencesunsubscribe | privacy policy | contact

Authorised by Jono La Nauze

I don’t have Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn so if you do, please help spread the word about this corporate scam.

cheers,
Meeks


A Bear called Frank

No, this is not a post about a personable grizzly – we don’t have any in Australia. The closest we get is the legendary ‘Drop Bear’.

<<cue hysterical laughter>>

<<cough>>

No, this post is about my good friend Frank Prem and the Beechworth Bakery Bears he has come to know and love. Frank is an Aussie poet-storyteller who brought me to tears with his stories of the Black Saturday bushfires that killed so many in our state. This time, however, Frank has created a beautiful book about teddy bears:

These gastronomic Bears greet customers in the Beechworth Bakery, Victoria, Australia

I love teddy bears and have a whole shelf full keeping me company in my office, so I fell in love with the Bakery Bears at first sight!

In the latest Bear book – Waiting for Frank Bear – Frank gives voice to these cuddly Bears and shows us their Bears-eye-view of the world, both the good and the bad. Coming out of the pandemic, we need books like these, books that bring this topsy turvy time into perspective and help us rediscover what it means to be human.

A peek inside the hardcover book

‘Waiting for Frank Bear’ will be released on November 14, 2021. That’ll be tomorrow for those of us in Australia, the day after for the rest of you? You can pre-order now though. 🙂

Amazon links for Waiting for Frank Bear :

In Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/Waiting-Frank-Bear-heard-Beechworth-Bakery-ebook/dp/B09KG4Q8K6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1636774991&sr=8-1

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09KG4Q8K6/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0

If you’d like to know more about Frank, you can find him on his blog: https://frankprem.com/

Or on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18679262.Frank_Prem

Or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvfW2WowqY1euO-Cj76LDKg

You know that ‘Resistance is futile’ [Doctor Who, 1963] so do it! lol And to all the Star Trek fans out there – I watched every episode of Doctor Who as a kid and that phrase was most definitely in use long before the Borg apparently used it in Star Trek. I also watched every episode of the original Star Trek, which is why I’ve never been able to watch the new generation re-make.

Live long and Prosper!

cheers,
Meeks


Worldbuilding with Inkarnate

All speculative fiction writers know about building worlds with words, but what if you need more than words to visualise the space in which your story takes place?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist yet even so, I recently discovered that a guestimate right at the start of Vokhtah was not only wrong, it was very wrong. That, plus needing a distraction from my first jab of AstraZeneca, lead me to Inkarnate, a brilliant, fantasy map making app.

Within the first week of playing around with Inkarnate, I had a map of Vokhtah that was a million times better than the dinky map I’d made using only Corel Draw 8. The trouble was, the more I worked on the map, the more I noticed the gaps in my worldbuilding. You see, the eyries of the Vokh don’t just appear as haphazard dots on a map. They are chosen for very specific requirements, such as:

  • the security provided by the cave system,
  • the proximity to water [and hence to food animals]
  • and the distance from other Vokh [the greater the better].

But if eyries have pre-requisites, so do the Trader caravans that service them. All iVokh can fly, including the Traders, but few can fly well. As for the Plodders who carry the bulk of the Traders’ goods, they can barely fly at all. And this is where biology and terrain combine to create problems, because if eyries need to be near water, but Plodders can’t fly over obstructions like rivers, how do the caravans travel from gather to gather? [A gather is like a human market place.]

In book 1 of Vokhtah, the only river the Traders had to cross was the Little Blue, and it had almost stopped running by the end of the dry season [Tohoh]. The ford across the river was dangerous but doable. But then what about the other seasons?

In my current WIP, I sidestepped that problem by saying that no caravans could travel during the wet season [Kohoh]. Neat. Unfortunately, when I came to filling in the Inkarnate map, I could no longer avoid the issue of terrain because the story of Vokhtah continues on past Kohoh into Tuhoh [the season of new growth] and beyond.

How in heck was I going to solve the problem of river crossings?

The solution to the problem of rivers required a complete rethink of the map, starting with geology and basic physics. Water always flows downhill, and depending on the slope and density of the material it flows through, it either slows down and spreads out:

… or it runs swiftly and carves out gorges. And sometimes it creates land bridges that span the gorge from side to side:

Or sometimes the bridge is actually the rim of a pool that sits high above the river. When the level of water goes back to its normal level, the rim provides a way from one side of the river to the other:

When there is too much water in the pool, it cascades over the rim and becomes a waterfall that feeds the river below:

And yes, I spent a couple of days just researching rivers and terrain here in Australia. 🙂 Much of the info. I discovered came from these videos:

The middle video was shot by an amateur so the helicopter noise is quite loud, but it feels real, as if you’re sitting in the helicopter, experiencing the trip along with the pilot and sightseers. Videos 1 and 3 are professionally produced and provide better visuals.

One of the things I learned was that Katherine Gorge, which is where most of the images were shot, is actually a deep cut through a plateau. All the images I’d seen before this were from the river level and made it seem as if the gorge had cut its way through a flat plain. Not so.

The realisation that the gorge was part of a plateau changed my whole perspective about the Inkarnate map, and how the eyries and caravans [of Vokhtah] would interact with the geology. The end result is this:

Click the image to zoom in closer. The legend on the left identifies the icons used in the map, including the eyries belonging to the Vokh, from the most powerful [large purple] to least powerful [tiny white].

The fuzzy purple areas represent the native vegetation of Vokhtah. As the planet is quite different to Earth, I had to re-imagine the evolution of plants without chlorophyll [the thing that makes Earth plants green and which they use to synthesize food from sunlight, water and minerals in the soil]. I pinched the idea from Earth plants that don’t have chlorophyll of their own. They’re basically parasites, but hey… 🙂

To be honest, I can’t remember exactly why I chose purple/lavender but you’ll notice that most of the water sources on the planet are shades of purple as well. A trick of the visible light off water in a binary star system maybe? The notable exceptions are The Eye [the lake at the top of the map], and the two rivers flowing out of the Eye [Little Blue and Big Blue]. The Eye is a maar lake and it was formed from a volcanic eruption.

This is a photo of Blue Lake in Mt Gambier [Victoria, Australia]:

Click the link above to discover more about volcanic activity in Victoria.

All of the photos and videos in this post are of Australia, and this ancient land was my inspiration for Vokhtah. Thanks for coming on this little journey with me. 🙂

In my next post, I’ll start posting tips and tricks I’ve learned about Inkarnate, and how to use it with Corel Draw 8 to achieve special effects.

cheers,
Meeks


80% vaccination target – what does it really mean for Australia?

I’ve read the Doherty report on which the Federal government’s 4-phase plan is based. The modelling in that report is based on vaccination rates of 70 and 80%…of people 16 and older.

Hmm, I wonder how many children and teens there are under 16?

To find out, I went to the Australian Bureau of Statistics website and downloaded a spreadsheet of population data by age. This is what it looks like:

I added up the numbers [shown in red] the old fashioned way:

1,556,615 +
1,628,393 +
1,595,700 +
296,168 +
———–
5,106,876
———–

So, 5,106,876 out of a total population of 25,698,093 won’t be counted at all. AT. ALL. That’s a lot more than I was expecting.

Hmm, if we subtract all those kids from the total population, how many people are left?

25,698,093 –
5,106,876
————–
20,591,217
————–

So, only 20,591,217 Australians are actually eligible for the jab.

Hmm, how much is 80% of 20,591,217?

It’s 16,472,973 Australians. [I looked it up]

If we take that number away from the total population [ 25,698,093 ] it means that 9,225,120 Australians of all ages will remain unvaccinated. 9 million people who will be vulnerable to Delta when we reach 80% and the need for lockdowns becomes ‘unlikely’.

Unlikely? We’re going to throw over 9 million people under the Delta bus but yay, we won’t have to have lockdowns?

‘Oh, but kids don’t get that sick…’

At least 1,245 Indonesian children have died from coronavirus since the pandemic began, although the actual number is thought to be higher, given the low level of testing for the virus in remote areas.

The majority of those who died were under the age of five.

According to the Indonesian Paediatric Society (IDAI), more than 100 Indonesian children have died every week since July from COVID-19.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/16/devastated-indonesian-parents-mourn-children-lost-to-covid-19

‘Oh, but those that refuse to be vaccinated have only themselves to blame…’

Almost five million people deserve to get sick and possibly die? What sort of a sick society are we?

And what about those for whom the vaccine doesn’t work? Oh…you didn’t think of that, did you?

You know when a vaccine is said to be 90% effective [e.g. Pfizer and Moderna], have you ever wondered what happens to the other 10%?

Well, for that 10% of people, the vaccine won’t work, or will only work partially. And AstraZeneca has an even lower effectiveness rate.

‘Oh…but herd immunity will take care of that!’

Herd immunity is ‘Abracadabra!’ the magic phrase that will solve all our problems. Except it won’t, not with Delta and this first generation of vaccines. Why? Because herd immunity works by surrounding unvaccinated people with a ‘fence’ of vaccinated people. That ‘fence’ stops Covid from being able to reach the unvaccinated people.

But what if there’s a hole in the fence?

In fact, there are two holes in the herd immunity fence. The first one is that breakthrough infections happen, and when they do, the fully vaccinated person is as infectious as if they hadn’t been vaccinated at all. The second is that this crop of vaccines do not provide permanent protection from transmission.

In fact, that protection looks as if it might wear off rather quickly after just four months. This basically means that the fully vaccinated could well end up infecting the unvaccinated themselves…which means:

There will be NO herd immunity.

In a year or two, there may well be vaccines that protect us from serious disease AND from infection. Only then will we finally achieve herd immunity.

Getting back to the Doherty report, their modelling included a number of assumptions based on data from March this year. Back in March, there was very little Delta circulating. Now, it’s running wild. Back in March, we were also delighted to discover that the vaccines provided good protection from transmission. Now we know that protection is short-lived.

Things have changed, but our politicians are still flogging the same plan. Living with Covid is smoke and mirrors with a generous dash of tricky numbers.

Meeks


Covid-19 and the ‘Protect Scotland’ app

This post is primarily for Australians because the Protect Scotland app does exactly what our own CovidSafe app was supposed to do… and doesn’t.

A trailer explaining how the app works and what protections it offers

How do we know the Protect Scotland app works?

We know it works because it was developed by Apple and Google [at the 1:00 minute mark] together. This means that the relevant bits of both operating systems that are needed to make the app work, actually talk to each other.

The Australian CovidSafe app failed so spectacularly in the Victorian outbreak because Apple and Android [Google] couldn’t be made to play nice with each other. The media have been silent about this failure, despite the fact that the Federal government’s whole recovery plan post-March was based on the app being able to contact-trace infections without human intervention.

Do I trust Apple and Google to be honest about how much of our privacy they retain? Ordinarily no, not it a month of Sundays. But with this app? I suspect that the rivalry between these two companies is what will ensure that they keep each other honest. After all, if one company manages to sneak something in that gives them a long term financial advantage, that could spell disaster for the other company.

So, if mobile phones can be used to track and trace people infected with Covid-19, then it might just be possible to ‘live with’ the virus. Maybe. Technology aside, though, just because the app alerts people to the fact that they may have been infected, that’s no guarantee that said people will do the right thing and self isolate.

Human nature is the big unknown, and given what we’ve seen conspiracy theorists doing already, I don’t like our chances of getting 100% voluntary compliance. I fear that things will have to get a great deal worse before the knuckleheads acknowledge that there is a problem, and that they are it.

In the meantime? Maybe Australia should buy the Protect Scotland app for those who actually give a flying fruit bat about their fellow human beings.

Meeks
[My thanks to Dr John Campbell for alerting me to the existence of the Protect Scotland app].


Dear PM – you can’t have your cake and eat it too

Dear Scott Morrison, PM,

Meeks here. As many countries, including our own, battle an up-surge in Covid-19 infections, one thing is becoming increasingly clear – the suppression model is just not working. As soon as lockdowns are relaxed [to save the economy], the virus surges back up again. If we had some effective tools to use against the virus, things might be different, but the truth is that we have nothing.

Remember that mobile phone app we borrowed from Singapore, PM? You know, the one that was going to keep track of everyone we came into contact with and then alert us if one of our contacts became infected? I think you called it CovidSafe, the app that was going to allow us to have our cake and eat it too.

Bad news, PM. The CovidSafe app failed, in large part because Apple phones and Android phones couldn’t or wouldn’t co-operate with each other. When the outbreak began in Victoria, the app was useless. It’s still useless, and as far as I know, no country has managed to develop one that actually works the way it should.

The failure of the CovidSafe app in Victoria has meant that the authorities here have had to track and trace every single contact manually. The backlog of untracked contacts is now in the thousands, one reason the Premier, Dan Andrews, has had to impose the harshest restrictions yet. These restrictions have seen the introduction of a nightly curfew and the shutdown of everything that is not [very] strictly essential. Workers in essential industries now have to have a permit to go to work.

These draconian restrictions became necessary, PM, because the virus has spread too far in the community. One reason for this spread is that the virus has many vectors [pathways] of spread available to it:

  • the most obvious vector is person-to-person contact – hugs, kisses etc. This is where social distancing comes in.
  • the next most important vector is the air. This is where masks come in as they greatly reduce the amount of virus being released into the air and being breathed in from the air. The virus spreads in the air via :
    • large droplets – e.g. when someone coughs or sneezes. These large droplets fall to the ground, or a surface, very quickly so are relatively easy to deal with.
    • aerosolized micro droplets that hang in the air for quite some time. In confined spaces such as public transport, or shopping centres where air is recirculated, these micro droplets can spread the virus very quickly.
  • next in line are surfaces. Both large and micro droplets can survive on various types of surfaces from a few hours to a few days. This is where hand hygiene is vital. If you touch something that has active virus on it and then touch your nose, mouth or eyes, the virus could easily enter your body via your own hand.

If we were all altruistic, compassionate people who practised strict social distancing, strict mask wearing, and strict hand hygiene until a vaccine arrived, we probably could have our cake and eat it too. Thailand has managed to do just that. Unfortunately, most Western countries are not like Thailand. We don’t seem to have the necessary sense of community responsibility. I’m surprised no one on your staff mentioned that to you, PM.

Anyway, as I’m sure you know, PM, Covid-19 has a number of incredibly powerful tools in its arsenal:

  • it has victims who are hell bent on spreading it to others
  • it has multiple vectors [pathways] for getting inside its victims
  • and it has THREE secret weapons :
    1. it is infectious for 2 – 3 days before symptoms appear,
    2. in many people, the symptoms are so mild, they don’t even know they’ve been infected,
    3. and there are some people who never get symptoms at all, not even mild ones, yet these asymptomatic people* are infectious and can spread the virus to others.

This is why the virus cannot actually be ‘controlled’. Sadly, PM this is also why your dream of suppression was never a realistic option.

So I guess the thing I’d like to know, PM, is what you intend to do now. Are you going to make us keep opening and closing all the time?

I sincerely hope not, PM, because everything I’ve seen so far indicates that businesses simply cannot survive much more of this. Being able to reopen safely and stay open, is vital to both people and business. The question, then, is how do we stay open safely?

I hate to say I-told-you-so, PM, but right from the start, I thought your government was wrong to opt for suppression instead of eradication. I also thought the schedule for reopening was wildly optimistic and didn’t demonstrate much of an understanding of human nature. And then there was the whole issue of whether Victoria was ready to reopen. With just 2 days of zero new infections in all of May, it didn’t look good.

But you and your government were determined to save the economy, PM, so Dan Andrews finally bowed to pressure. And there was a lot of it, wasn’t there? You said each state had to do what was right for that state, but many people in your Cabinet and in the Victorian Liberal Party were not so nice. I really think you should have a word with Dan Tehan, your education minister, along with Tim Smith and Michael O’Brien of Victoria. They said some naughty things behind your back, things designed to paint Dan Andrews as a megalomaniac who wanted to hurt his people.

I’d definitely have words with them, PM, because what happened next is at least partly their fault. With overseas travellers still arriving in Melbourne, Dan Andrews ordered that they stay in hotel quarantine for 14 days. A private security company was hired to stop them from leaving hotel quarantine. That private security company then apparently sub-contracted the work out. Unfortunately, those private security guards were poorly equipped and even more poorly trained.

Dear PM, I’m stressing the fact that it was a private company because Dan Andrews has been blamed for doing precisely what you and your government do all the time. You outsource to private companies because you believe that private industry always does a better job than the public service. Plus it’s part of your credo of ‘small government’. But that’s not always the case, is it, PM? I mean, look at the deaths in aged care! Most of them occurred in private aged care facilities regulated and controlled by your government in Canberra.

Getting back to those private security guards, PM, I won’t speculate about how they caught Covid-19 from the quarantined travellers, it’s enough that they did. Then, because large family get-togethers were once again allowed, they took the virus home to their families. From there, the virus spread like wildfire. Or should I say ‘bushfire’?

And of course, with all those new victims, the virus used every weapon in its considerable arsenal to leap from person to person, and from place to place.

In hindsight, PM, I do believe that Dan Andrews made a mistake in not putting all of Melbourne into hard lockdown along with the social housing towers, but the atmosphere of general discontent probably made that impossible. We’d been hearing about how hard it was to be in lockdown, how miserable we were for such a long time that we would have rebelled.

Speaking of discontent, PM, did you have anything to do with that? You see, I was rather shocked by how skewed the reporting was, even on the ABC. Instead of inspiring stories about people helping each other, or sad stories about people who had lost loved ones, everything was skewed towards the negative. Stories about how tough it was for small business, how tough it was for parents having to supervise their kids’ schooling, how sad we all were at not being able to visit friends and family…

But I digress, PM. I’d like to talk about what might have happened if we had opted for eradication like New Zealand. Import and export would have continued. The only thing we would not have had were foreign tourists and foreign students. But hey, we ended up not having them anyway.

The real difference would have been in what came after. With the virus eradicated, the Australian states could have remained ‘open’, and both tourism and the tertiary sector could have remained ticking over thanks to domestic demand. Instead, both sectors are dying because you somehow forgot about them when you were handing out the largesse.

Not that I blame you, PM. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re dealing with a crisis. I mean, do you remember those long, long, long queues outside the Centrelink offices when you announced the first, rather short shutdown? And how long it took for people to receive their first payments. Mistakes do happen, don’t they?

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/mar/24/newly-unemployed-australians-queue-at-centrelink-offices-as-mygov-website-crashes-again

But I digress again. Getting back to eradication, PM, I know what you’re going to say, eradication of the virus would have been hard. For starters, all of Australia would have had to stay in hard lockdown long enough to stop ALL the ways the virus can spread. That would have taken time, and it would have cost your government a lot more money. Then again, it looks as if suppression is going to cost more too.

In fact, I can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t have been a whole lot cheaper to lockdown once and eradicate the virus the first time round? I mean, I know not every country can successfully eradicate the virus, but we can! Australia may be big, but we are an island you know.

Anyway, there is good news, PM. It’s not too late to change your policy and go for eradication. Once Victoria finally grinds the virus down to zero, I think you’ll find that none of the other states want to risk being the next Covid-19 hot spot. No one will want to open their borders, and you know how disastrous that would be for your economy. No money coming in, lots of money going out. Not good.

So don’t think about the cost, PM, think about the benefits we’d get from eradication. With the virus gone, we’d all be able to:

  • go back to work,
  • go back to school,
  • go back to travel [within Australia],
  • go back to holidays [within Australia],
  • go back to coffee with friends,
  • go back to dinner parties,
  • go back to birthday parties,
  • go back to drinks at the pub,
  • go back to sport as real live spectators,
  • go back to weddings,
  • and yes, we could attend funerals again…but there would be far fewer of them.

And let’s not forget business, PM. Businesses, especially the small ones, will be able to reopen and stay open. They’ll be able to plan for weeks or months ahead. They’ll be able to grow again. And people will stimulate the economy by spending! Yay, right?

But first, PM, you and your government have to bite the bullet and admit that we cannot control this virus. We don’t have the tools or the social structure to stop it from breaking out again. The best we can do is eradicate it within the country and then keep it from returning.

That way lies hope. And who knows, maybe in time, New Zealand and other, successful South East Asian countries will let us join their bubble. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Suppression though, that’s a dead end, PM, literally. So how about it? Shall we give eradication a go?

Most sincerely,
Meeks

* The first person to ever be identified as an asymptomatic carrier was Mary Mallon, nicknamed Typhoid Mary. She remained infectious her whole life because she lived at a time when there was no safe or easy way to rid her of the virus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Mallon


I love you Warrandyte!!!

Almost exactly a month ago, I drove in to Warrandyte to pick up some necessary prescriptions from the chemist. A month ago I was the only person wearing a mask.

Today…every. single. person. I. saw. was. wearing. a. MASK!

Thank you, just…thanks 🙂

love
Meeks


For Victorians Only

If you thought you were safe from Covid-19 because you live in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, or out bush somewhere, think again. DHHS publishes a table of case numbers by local government area, but the table is waaaaay down the very bottom of the daily report. I’m ashamed to say I only found it today myself, so I thought it might help if everyone could check their own area.

[Note: On the DHHS website, the table is sorted by number of cases. I copied the DHHS table and sorted it by locality to make it easier to find your own area]

New cases of Covid-19 by locality name

LGAConfirmed cases (ever)Active cases (current)
ALPINE10
ARARAT50
BALLARAT2411
BANYULE288147
BASS COAST61
BAW BAW93
BAYSIDE6326
BENALLA30
BOROONDARA15152
BRIMBANK730481
BULOKE00
CAMPASPE50
CARDINIA5324
CASEY296149
CENTRAL GOLDFIELDS10
COLAC OTWAY4646
CORANGAMITE10
DAREBIN19391
EAST GIPPSLAND21
FRANKSTON6218
GANNAWARRA20
GLEN EIRA9028
GLENELG65
GOLDEN PLAINS96
GREATER BENDIGO144
GREATER DANDENONG11884
GREATER GEELONG10429
GREATER SHEPPARTON171
HEPBURN20
HINDMARSH00
HOBSONS BAY13373
HORSHAM107
HUME728338
INDIGO00
INTERSTATE857
KINGSTON8242
KNOX5526
LATROBE134
LODDON41
MACEDON RANGES188
MANNINGHAM9340
MANSFIELD41
MARIBYRNONG205117
MAROONDAH4020
MELBOURNE542281
MELTON318195
MILDURA50
MITCHELL349
MOIRA110
MONASH11849
MOONEE VALLEY473227
MOORABOOL129
MORELAND429238
MORNINGTON PENINSULA8014
MOUNT ALEXANDER71
MOYNE10
MURRINDINDI20
NILLUMBIK5524
NORTHERN GRAMPIANS30
OVERSEAS50
PORT PHILLIP11142
PYRENEES00
QUEENSCLIFFE00
SOUTH GIPPSLAND94
SOUTHERN GRAMPIANS20
STONNINGTON15539
STRATHBOGIE20
SURF COAST144
SWAN HILL62
TOTAL77443995
TOWONG00
UNKNOWN4946
WANGARATTA20
WARRNAMBOOL50
WELLINGTON130
WEST WIMMERA10
WHITEHORSE9749
WHITTLESEA379245
WODONGA10
WYNDHAM756474
YARRA218126
YARRA RANGES5726
YARRIAMBIACK10

I live in the Shire of Nillumbik, and guess what? Yup, we have 24 active cases. I was shocked. This virus is spreading like a grass fire.

And now a basic little chart of how the new cases have been rising since May 1, 2020 [that’s when I started recording daily cases on my spreadsheet].

This is a link to the Daniel Andrews update posted 2 hours ago. In that update he confirms that one of the men who succumbed to Covid-19 overnight was in his 40s. Bear that in mind as you read the rest of this post.

And finally a plea : if you won’t wear a mask to protect others, please wear one to protect yourself.

Quite apart from the threat of fines, evidence is growing of long term health problems in many of those who get Covid-19 and recover. According to data from Italy, 87% of recovered patients in the study had some symptoms/health problems for up to 2 months afterwards. Only 13% reported no symptoms/problems at all.

The following graphic is a screenshot taken from the Med Cram video on ‘Long Haulers’ – i.e. those who continue to have symptoms after the virus is gone:

The next graphic is from the same Med Cram video:

Breakdown of data regarding Covid-19 ‘Long Haulers’

What the graphic shows is the breakdown of the data. These are the important bits:

  • 143 recovered patients were studied
  • all of the patients were sick enough to be admitted to hospital
  • the median age of the patients in the study was 56 [median means that there were just as many patients younger than 56 as there were older than 56. So it’s not an ‘average’]
  • 13% of patients studied had no symptoms/health problems after recovering from the virus
  • 32% had 1-2 symptoms/health problems for up to 2 months after recovering from the virus
  • 55% had 3 or more symptoms/health problems for up to 2 months after recovering from the virus.

So, if you get sick enough to be hospitalised, you’re going to feel pretty awful for quite some time afterwards. But who is this ‘you’?

To find out, I searched for ‘long haulers’ and ‘covid-19’ on Youtube. I found so much more than I ever expected. This video is about a 38 year old woman who’s been battling the after effects of Covid-19 for months:

This next video gives some info about how many ‘long haulers’ there are:

We have to rethink our response to Covid-19. It is not just a danger to ‘oldies’. It is not just a danger to people with co-morbidities. It is a danger to all of us, of any age.

Next time you go out, ask yourself if you want to become one of the ‘long haulers’. If the answer is no, wear a mask and stay away from those who don’t.

cheers
Meeks


Covid-19 in Melbourne [Australia] and Viral Load

For those in other parts of the world, my city, Melbourne, is in the middle of a Covid-19 resurgence, and we’re being locked down again.

Much has been made about the so-called ‘error of judgement’ that led to a private security company being tasked with keeping travellers in hotel quarantine. The truth, however is a lot more complicated:

  • yes, the security guards assigned to the hotels were not properly ‘educated’ about the virus,
  • and yes, some of those security guards caught the virus themselves,
  • and yes, the infected guards did bring the virus home to their friends and family,
  • but…they would not have been able to infect as many friends and family if Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal National Party had not pushed so hard for Victoria to reopen.

Part of the re-opening in Victoria included the ability to visit more people outside of our immediate families. This led to big family get togethers, especially in migrant families for whom family connections are not only strong but vital.

Now think – what would a family get together be without kisses and hugs?

‘The government said it’s okay to get together so it must be safe. And if it’s safe, why should we not kiss and hug?’

One of the reasons why social distancing is so important could well be viral load.

No idea what that is?

I was struggling with the concept myself until I watched Dr John Campbell’s video this morning:

There is some technical stuff in the video, but Dr John is very good at explaining complex ideas in simple ways so please don’t skip this one.

For those who only want the bottom line, it’s this:

  1. a small viral load – i.e. about 10 viral particles – will likely get caught in the mucus membranes of the nose and throat, giving your immune system TIME to mount a counter attack. By the time the virus has spread enough to reach the lungs, the body is already fighting back. This could explain why some disease is less deadly.
  2. a large viral load – i.e. about 100 viral particles – goes straight to the lungs. Once in the lungs, it begins causing pneumonia before the immune system has had a chance to fight back. The lungs are a perfect place for the virus to reproduce and spread, so it does. This could explain why lung infections can be so deadly.

The mechanism determining whether we get a mild infection or a severe one is much more complicated that just viral load, but understanding the impact of viral load can make a difference in how we behave.

If I walk down the street, wearing a mask, and I pass you, also wearing a mask, the chance of being infected with a large viral load is almost zero.

But if you and I are in a crowded bus, and neither of us is wearing a mask, the chance of breathing in a lot of viral particles goes way up.

And finally, if we are friends and we kiss and hug when we meet, the chance of becoming infected or passing on the infection sky rockets. Why? Because the pathways for the virus include:

  • breath to breath
  • contact to contact, via saliva
  • hand to hand and then from hand to mouth/nose/eyes
  • passive droplets in the air
  • passive droplets on surfaces
  • passive droplets on uncooked food such as salads, or cooked foods that may have been touched by hand [after cooking], or breathed on accidentally [after cooking]
  • passive droplets on plates, cutlery, towels, toys

I could go on and on, but I think you can see where this is going. The more contact, the greater the likelihood of severe infection. So yes, in hindsight, a private security company obviously wasn’t the right choice. But who would have been? The police? What makes us think the police or the ADF [Australian Defence Force] would have been better educated about pandemic protocols?

And finally, let’s not forget the bloody great elephant in the room: the reopening. If people had not been allowed to visit each other, the virus could not have spread from the security guards in the first place. Or if it had, the clusters would have been small and manageable.

It takes two to tango, and Victoria’s dance partners included:

  • Scott Morrison and henchmen like Dan Tehan, the Federal Education Minister who castigated my Premier for being too cautious and not opening up the schools faster.
  • And let’s not forget Michael O’Brien. Michael who? Michael O’Brien, the leader of the LNP here in Victoria. Yes, the man in the same party as Scott Morrison et al. The man so desperate to gain political advantage that he made attack ads against my Premier, telling Victorians that they were missing out, being left behind, doing it tough because we weren’t opening up fast enough.
  • Smarmy Tim Wilson should probably rate a mention as well. Yet another LNP politician in Victoria looking to cash in on Covid-19.

I’m sure there are more, but I can only handle so much anger in one day so I’m not going to go online to research who else played a part in what’s happening to my city and my state. For me, the bottom line is that my Premier, Dan Andrews, has fought long and hard to keep people alive. Those other politicians I named care only about one thing – the economy.

I ask you to remember those names when Covid-19 stops being an inconvenience and starts hurting the people you love.

Meeks


New Cases of Covid-19 in Victoria, as at June 27, 2020

The Dept of Health & Human Services [VIC] publishes Covid-19 case data, but it’s not wildly accessible. There are no graphs or charts, and the breakdown of infections – i.e. the source of the infections – is only available on the day of the media release. In other words, it’s buried.

I don’t know whether this is a deliberate attempt not to ‘worry’ people, or simply typical DHHS bureaucracy. Either way, the messaging is not getting out there, so I trawled through the data and created a simple Excel spreadsheet.

First up, the raw data for MAY, 2020:

Next, the raw data for JUNE, 2020:

As you can see, I wanted to show the source of the infections, but gave up when the data was too hard to find. Apologies, but I do have a life.

Now for some charts from that data. The first one is a line graph showing the ups and downs of infections [in Victoria] for all of May and June.

This chart gives a decent overview, but the data is squashed up because you can’t fit almost 60 days onto a small chart. Despite this, you can clearly see three things:

  1. Victoria only had two days on which we recorded zero new cases: June 6 and June 9.
  2. Victoria never really got rid of the virus. That was why Premier Dan Andrews resisted Scott Morrison’s push to reopen as quickly as possible. Sadly, he didn’t resist enough. Or Scott Morrison proved to be a bigger bully than expected.
  3. Apart from a few small dips, new cases in Victoria have been rising steadily since June 9. This is in stark contrast to May. In May, new cases fluctuated up and down, but the overall trajectory was down. In other words, the lockdown was working.

The next two graphs show this more clearly. The first is for May:

The second graph is for June:

What’s even more worrying than that upward trajectory for June is that the number of new cases has doubled in just four days – i.e from 20 on June 24 to 41 on June 27.

All up, we’ve had 10 consecutive days of double digit new cases. 10 days in a row. And in the latest news, a nurse working at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, one of the biggest in Melbourne, has tested positive for Covid-19.

Scott Morrison may believe that we can control this virus, but that is pure, arrogant bullshit. The numbers don’t lie. We can’t ‘control’ this virus any more than we could control the bushfires that devastated two states just a few months ago. Remember them? Remember how good Scomo was at ‘fixing’ the inferno? Yes, I thought so.

The truth is that nothing has really changed [for the better] since we originally went into lockdown:

  • Despite all the hype about the contact tracing app, I’ve heard nothing new about it since it was revealed that it doesn’t work that well with iPhones.
  • We have some more intensive care units, and more medical personnel trained to use them, but overseas data has shown that even the most sophisticated health care system can be overwhelmed when the virus surges out of control.
  • We have more PPE [personal protective equipment], but I don’t know whether we have enough for medical personnel in a surge. Pretty sure we don’t have enough for medical personnel and the general public if shit hits the fan.

So where exactly is Australia’s magic bullet supposed to come from?

One option that does work is the mandatory wearing of masks in public – to protect us from those who are infected but don’t know they are. Masks stop them from breathing on us.

South East Asian countries, like Thailand, that have mandated the wearing of masks have almost ridiculously low infection rates. Here is Oz, however, people still give you funny looks if you wear a mask in public, so I guess masks are a no-go.

So what else is there?

Well, there is testing. If there were random, compulsory testing [like in booze buses] we’d get a much better idea of how many asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spreaders there are, but it seems that testing is a) voluntary and b) mostly looking for people who are already sick. People who fear they may be forced into self-quarantine for 14 days are refusing to be tested. The irony is that they could well be the very people we most need to test.

When it comes to therapeutics, there are a couple of existing drugs that have an anti-inflammatory effect and may reduce the number of covid-19 deaths, but they’re still largely untested.

And that’s about it. Short of another draconian lockdown, we don’t really have any effective way of controlling the virus, which leads me to think that our success the first time around was due more to luck than good management. Sadly, I fear that our reopening won’t be as lucky because the ‘stages’ are based on the idea that all of us will ‘do the right thing’. Yeah, right. -facepalm-

The reality is that the messaging has been wrong from the start. People were told that they wouldn’t be badly affected by the virus, so now all they can see is that they’ve been made poor, bored and unhappy just to save a few oldies who were going to die anyway. ‘Eff that… Little wonder then that when the leash is loosened there’s a rush of me,me,me behaviour.

If our leaders really had wanted to reopen ‘safely’, they should have started with an education campaign that focused on the reality of the virus and what it does to people. Then they should have made any reopening, no matter how minor, contingent on the lack of new cases. Clear rules with clear targets.

Finally, they should have made it very clear that the instant people stop obeying the rules, the whole town/state/country will go back to lockdown. And when the inevitable happened [like toddlers pushing the boundaries], the consequences should have been followed through. Again, clear rules and clear consequences.

Instead, we’ve had a wishy-washy ‘plan’, mixed messages all over the place, and media showing how hard it is to live with the lockdown instead of how hard it is to die of the virus… And yes, ABC and Ita Buttrose, I’m looking at you. Since when did the people’s ABC pander to the likes of Scott Morrison?

To be honest, I think we should have had another Grim Reaper campaign:

The Grim Reaper advertisement

Right at the end, the voice over says ‘Prevention is the only cure we’ve got’. Sounds familiar, don’t you think?

There’s been a lot of controversy about the Grim Reaper strategy, but the truth is it worked. It made us aware of both the danger and what we had to do to stay alive.

Overkill? I don’t know. If we act like toddlers, shouldn’t we be treated like toddlers?

Sadly, none of the possibilities I’ve outlined have actually happened. We had a poorly organised, draconian lockdown that resulted in massive queues outside every Centrelink office in the country. And we’ve had big chunks of society thrown under the economic bus, but in terms of ‘management’, that’s about it. Now, I fear we’re having a reopening that’s being ‘managed’ as well as you’d expect.

We could have reopened safely, but Scott Morrison didn’t do a single thing to make a safe reopening possible. He just laid out his ‘plan’ and expected everyone to make it happen. Yeah, the smirk may be gone but #ScottyFromMarketing still knows bugger all about human nature.

Buckle up for stage two my fellow Victorians. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Meeks


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